If you plan to make multiple DIY products for your home, it’s important to start building an ingredient toolkit. It may seem like you’ll need a bunch of fancy products and a chemistry degree to formulate homemade cleaners, but that’s simply not the case. Most of the ingredients used to make homemade products are basic ingredients which you may already own and be using in your home.
12 Must-Have Ingredients to Clean Your Entire House, Naturally
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a naturally occurring substance. Baking soda is used in homemade recipes to fight against dirt, grease, and odors. I prefer cooking with Bob’s Red Mill brand baking soda, but for cleaning, I stick with the big bag of Arm & Hammer.
Ingredient Caution: Baking soda can be added to many homemade mixtures; however, you should never combine baking soda and vinegar (they cancel each other out).
Recipes to Try: 8 Money-Saving DIY Recipes Using Baking Soda
Washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate and sold under the Arm & Hammer brand, is highly alkaline which makes it a great cleaner! The high alkaline level allows washing soda to act as a solvent. Washing soda can also be used to fight against hard water, since the washing soda binds to the minerals, which in turn can boost laundry soap’s effectiveness. Washing soda can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores, or you can make it at home using baking soda and an oven–I’ll show you how in the cleaning book coming out on November 23rd!
Recipes to Try: Homemade Oxi-Clean-Like Powder, Homemade Bleach Alternative, Homemade Laundry Soap, Easy DIY Dish Soap
Vinegar is 5% acetic acid. This acid fights against bacteria and other yuckies you don’t want living in your home. Vinegar can’t be used on every surface (like marble and granite), but even with its limitations vinegar is an extremely versatile product to keep in your natural cleaning toolkit.
Ingredient Caution: Vinegar can be combined with many amazing cleaning ingredients; however, vinegar should never be combined with castile soap, hydrogen peroxide, or baking soda.
Recipes to Try: Herbal Infused Surface Cleaner, Glass and Stainless Steel Cleaner, Floor Cleaner Wipes, Reusable Surface Cleaner Wipes
Castile soap is a concentrated vegetable-based soap made of ingredients you can actually pronounce. This soap is gentle on the skin and effective in the fight against dirt, grease, and unwanted germs. Dr. Bronner’s is a very a popular brand of castile soap.
The world is just a better place with castile soap, really! Castile soap can be used to clean just about anything and everything: your face, your laundry, and even your stinky dog! Pretty amazing stuff.
Ingredient Caution: Castile soap can be combined with many amazing cleaning ingredients; however, castile soap should never be combined with vinegar.
Recipes to Try: 7 Money-Saving Recipes Using Castile Soap, Homemade Stain Remover Spray
Sal suds is Dr. Bronner’s tougher version of soap, although its chemical makeup makes it a detergent, not a soap. Sal Suds is formulated to conquer tough cleaning projects: unforgiving grease and stubborn dirt. Sal Suds is a hot topic in the natural community, so it remains a product that some use and others stay away from. What’s all the fuss about? Sal Suds receives an A on the Environmental Working Group’s website. You can also read more about the big SLS debate on Lisa Bronner’s blog.
Recipes to Try: DIY Scrub Cleaner, Easy DIY Dish Soap
Lemons (Also, Limes and Oranges):
Fresh citrus, particularly lemons and lemon juice, are amazing natural cleaners. Lemons contain antibacterial properties which aid in fighting unwanted germs and bacteria in the home. Lemons also work to help brighten dull linens in my homemade whitening recipe. Plus, citrus provides an amazing fresh scent to homemade cleaners. Orange and lime peels can be added to vinegar for a fresh antibacterial cleaner.
Recipes to Try: Herbal Infused Surface Cleaner, Homemade Bleach Alternative, 4-Ingredient Citrus Air Freshener
Essential oils are very popular today, but the truth is before the popular oil brands marketed online and bloggers started filling Pinterest with recipes, essential oils were being used by generations before us.
Essential oils are basically concentrated oils derived from plants. For those wanting a more scientific definition, here’s how Retha, a certified aromatherapist from Plant Therapy, defines an essential oil, “An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation, often by using steam.”
Essential oils not only provide a pretty, natural fragrance to homemade cleaners, but also important disinfecting properties. A few of my favorite essential oils for cleaning, include: lemon, tea tree, peppermint, lavender, and orange.
My favorite trustworthy and affordable essential oil brands for cleaning include: Aura Cacia, NOW, and Plant Therapy. All of these brands can be found online.
Out of all the ingredients I use to make homemade cleaners none are more hotly debated than good ol’ borax. Over the years, some people have expressed concerns that Borax isn’t a safe homemade cleaner. I take just the opposite view, especially when you compare super effective Borax to most of the main-stream cleaners on the market.
While I feel safe using Borax in my cleaning recipes, I take care to avoid inhaling this ingredient and keep it away from little hands that may choose to taste-test some of the white powder. The product receives an F according to the EWG for respiration concerns (don’t purposely sniff inside a box of Borax!). I believe this article from Wellness Mama offers valid points to why we shouldn’t throw the Borax out with the box.
The results of using Borax in homemade recipes is quite impressive, so don’t skip this ingredient if a recipe specifically calls for Borax. Trust me, the result just won’t be the same.
Recipes to Try: Homemade Laundry Soap, Easy DIY Dish Soap
I have very “fond” memories of hydrogen peroxide as a young child. I clearly remember my many playtime booboos and my dad applying the bubbly substance called hydrogen peroxide to the dirty ouchies. As it turns out, I’d grow to love this common ingredient later as an adult. In fact, I keep quite the stock of hydrogen peroxide in my home due its amazing disinfecting properties (hey, clean ouchies and laundry!).
Ingredient Caution: Never combine hydrogen peroxide and vinegar when making homemade cleaning recipes; you will create peracetic acid which can be irritating and corrosive. Hydrogen peroxide also demands a bit of extra storage care since it’s sensitive to light, so it should be kept in a dark container/space (ever wonder why the hydrogen peroxide bottles are brown?).’
Recipes to Try: Homemade Stain Remover Spray, DIY Scrub Cleaner
Alcohol (Vodka and Rubbing Alcohol):
The guy at the liquor store knows me well and it’s not because I’m a lover of exotic alcoholic beverages. I’m still trying to convince him that my large vodka purchases are due to my love for homemade vanilla extract and cleaners.
Vodka’s high alcohol content is perfect for killing germs, and even mildew or mold. You can also use alcohol to help shine chrome and glass. Simply wipe a surface with a cloth that’s been moistened with vodka, and viola–squeaky clean! Vodka may also be used to kill odors and freshen-up fabrics. That’s right, kiss the Febreze good-bye.
Rubbing alcohol, also known as isopropyl alcohol, is considered an anti-septic and sold as such in grocery stores. Rubbing alcohol is used in homemade cleaners to kill germs. I know some people in the natural community avoid rubbing alcohol for cleaning purposes. Vodka may be safely substituted for rubbing alcohol in cleaning recipes.
Recipes to Try: Glass and Stainless Steel Cleaner, Floor Cleaner Wipes, 4-Ingredient Citrus Air Freshener
Kosher or Sea Salt:
Yep, add good ol’ cooking salt to your DIY toolkit. Salt has been well-known for centuries for its cleaning and preserving properties. Salt can be used to soften hard water and clothes, and even used as a natural scent booster. And its abrasive properties can be used to scour dirty surfaces, particularly when paired with a lemon or lemon juice. Costco and many grocery stores sell large boxes of salt for $1-2.
Recipes to Try: Laundry Softener and Scent Booster
Olive oil (I use an inexpensive olive oil specifically for cleaning) can be used to condition furniture and dust surfaces. When it comes to skin cleansing, olive oil is a great facial cleanser.
Recipes to Try: Dusting Spray and Furniture Polish (in my cleaning book), How to Clean Your Face Naturally with Oil, Honey and Aloe Facial Cleanser, Homemade Liquid Hand Soap
When making homemade products, clean tap water may be used for temporary storage; for long-term storage use distilled water or boiled and then cooled water to limit the possibility of bacteria growth.
Thank you for this lovely and worry free diy list. Been really worried on how to help my daughter without too much chemicals. I’m relieved with these list.
I just wanted to say “Thank you” for all the wonderful tips for saving money. I started making my own now. I have dogs and this recipes are all perfect. Thanks again, Kristin.
Do you have a post on the uses of apple cider vinegar? I would love to read it!
Hey, I don’t :).
Hi Kristin, I love your blog and your IG! Can you recommend a natural emulsifier to mix essential oils with water?
Thank you, Pearl! You could try adding some rubbing alcohol to blend the ingredients. Here’s an example recipe: https://livesimply.me/2014/10/23/bandits-oil-disinfecting-kitchen-spray/.
Great and very helpful post! I’m recently trying to get rid of all the chemical detergents at home and to mix my own cleaning solutions. Here are some great ideas for me to try that seem to be quite efficient.Thanks for all this great info, I’m sharing to my sister too. Greets!
Hey Vivian, I’m glad the post was helpful :).
Hi! I’ve recently become obsessed with your blog! I love everything you have! I was wondering if you had a recipe for wood polish? I’ve found many from Pinterest but I like the other recipes for your cleaners and I was hoping to keep with the same scheme.’
Hey Nicole, I’m so glad you’re enjoying Live Simply! I have two wood polish recipes, but they aren’t on the blog. They are both in the DIY Natural Cleaning Challenge eBook.
Saw your note about not combining castile soap and vinegar… can you explain why? Thanks 🙂
Hey Katherine, Yes, great question! The basic answer is vinegar is an acid and castile soap is a base so they cancel each other out. Here’s a really good in-depth explanation from Lisa Bronner: http://www.lisabronner.com/a-word-of-caution-about-vinegar-and-castile-soap/.
Soap nuts are amazing for floors too!! Mother nature got us covered with everything 🙂
How do you use them on the floor, Rimple? I’ve used them in the laundry before, but that’s about it.
Thank you for the shopping list! Being able to get everything in one trip is such a convenience for me and this made it a whole lot easier. Now I can stock up for awhile! One question for you, can you use apple cider vinegar in place of the white vinegar or does it not have the same properties you are looking for? Thank you so much for the blog and all of the wonderful ideas you provide us with each week.
Hey Celeste Samra, Thank you! I’m so glad the list is helpful!
I’ve tried using apple cider vinegar in my cleaning recipes, but I haven’t been very pleased with the scent or the price. It’s definitely a great option if you’re okay with the scent and cost!
Informative blog of clean house naturally I just like this.
Thank you, Melissa.
Loving your site! Do you have a good dishwasher recipe or one that doesn’t have a bad rating on ewg.org that you like? I am having a hard time with that one.
Hey Sharon, Thank you so much!
I’ve played around with a lot of homemade dishwasher recipe possibilities (I’m still testing dishwasher recipe ideas like crazy in hopes of developing one that works for the book, my fingers are crossed). For now, all the homemade solutions I test aren’t quite up to commercial standards :(. According to the EWG the following brands receive an A rating (http://www.ewg.org/guides/subcategories/24-DishwasherDetergent):
1/ Earth Friendly Products: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/525-EarthFriendlyProductsWaveAutoDishwasherGelOrganicLavender
2/ Honest Co: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/5793-TheHonestCohonestautodishwashergelfreeclear
3/ BioKleen: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2462-biokleenAutomaticDishPowderCitrusEssence
4/ Seventh Generation: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/1522-SeventhGenerationAutomaticDishwasherPowderFreeClear I usually purchase this one since Seventh Generation is easy to find at most stores.
Great post! I love using natural cleaning products. Baking soda & lemon are two that I use religiously!
Thank you, Kelly! Baking soda and lemons are just awesome–great choices!